How to Create an Employee Engagement Action Plan in 3 Steps

We hear it all the time. Managers are given their team’s engagement results, and then left guessing about how to improve their team’s experience. No wonder it’s so difficult to meaningfully increase outcomes like engagement and retention.
Here are your team’s engagement results, now go brainstorm an action plan.

In fact, an executive at a large healthcare organization recently told us that many of their managers have stopped paying attention to their team’s engagement results because they don’t know what to do to make improvements.

Creating an action plan that works doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are three crucial steps in creating an effective action plan to finally move the needle on engagement:

1. Make sure you’re asking about employee experiences that powerfully drive engagement

  • The critical first step in giving support to your team where they need it most is asking your people about the experiences that powerfully drive their engagement and well-being. These are the experiences that you want to improve. Too often we see engagement surveys asking about employee experiences that are simply not actionable or have little impact on engagement (e.g., “Do you have a close friend at work?”).
  • What you can do: Here is a great starting place to measure what matters most. The leading science framework for engagement, Self-Determination Theory  (SDT), has identified three fundamental employee experiences that powerfully drive engagement, retention, and well-being.
  • Autonomy (“I believe”): I can personally endorse and get behind my work. I feel willingly engaged with my tasks instead of pressured or compelled by outside forces.
  • Relatedness (“I belong”): I feel connected to my colleagues and leaders, and that I belong with my team.
  • Mastery (“I succeed”): I feel successful in my daily work, and I can see clear paths for growth and development.
  • We recommend that you include questions in your engagement survey about how employees are experiencing autonomy, mastery, and relatedness in their day-to-day work, and how they’re experiencing support from their managers for these critical experiences. Improving these experiences among your team will powerfully improve their engagement.

2. Identify the top 2 focus areas for your team

  • While it’s great to give managers their team’s data so they can explore and understand the full spectrum of experiences, it’s not a practical action strategy for most busy managers. We often hear from managers that in addition to their team’s data, they need guidance on the top 1-2 focus areas that will have the strongest impact on their team’s engagement. This will help managers cut through the nose and address their team’s greatest needs.
  • What you can do: Analyze engagement survey data to elucidate the top 2 focus areas for each manager to make the biggest improvements in their team’s engagement and well-being.
  • Continuing with the SDT example above, if your analysis shows that a team is feeling pressured in their work and struggles to find personal value in their tasks, the manager would be guided to focus on improving their team’s experience of autonomy.

3. Implement actions proven to work

  • This is the most important step, yet also the biggest obstacle for managers because they don’t know what to do to improve their team’s engagement.
  • ‘Brainstorm an action plan with your team’ doesn’t work. In fact, we frequently hear from managers that creating an action plan is just a superficial exercise to tick the box.
  • What you can do: We need to support our managers to support their teams. Specifically, managers need step-by-step actions grounded in evidence that are linked to their team’s focus areas. The goal should be to provide managers with prescriptive, practical actions so they can get away from their desk and implement this support.
  • At motivationWorks we think of these actions as recipes, because with a recipe you know exactly what to do at each step (e.g., Step 1: Add a tablespoon of sugar).  Here is a sample recommendation that managers can implement to support their team’s autonomy by taking employees’ perspectives when complaints emerge:
By putting yourself in your employees’ shoes and nonjudgmentally understanding their perspective, you will better understand their feelings, the challenges they’re facing, and how best to act. Furthermore, taking employees’ perspective encourages better problem solving and self-initiated action, because they know they’ve been listened to and that you are in their corner.

Keep the following in mind when you are discussing issues with your team, particularly when they come to you with something they want to discuss:
•   Hearing negative feelings is hard and the natural instinct is to either defend them or “solve them.” Both strategies will leave the employee feeling unheard. While there will be a time for problem solving, be sure to acknowledge that you’ve heard the negative feelings loud and clear, without judgment.
•   Next, focus on the specific things that are at the root of the problem. Avoid talking about criticisms of people—focus on the actions that are evoking the frustrations (i.e. “When Bob does X, you are feeling Y”).
•    Discuss with the employee how you’d like to address the issues together, making sure to include them in the solution.

In summary, creating an effective employee engagement action plan involves:

  1. measuring the experiences that matter most
  2. identifying the top focus areas
  3. implementing proven actions to improve those focus areas

The result? Managers will finally know exactly what to do next and can lean into your employee engagement survey as a useful, pain-free tool to improve their team’s engagement and retention. What’s more, employees will finally feel heard after seeing their feedback being put to good use.

No items found.
Unlock your organization's potential now